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'Virtual Knobby Knees' a hit with performers, Riverkeeper

ALBANY — Call it “virtual Knobby Knees,” the pandemic-inspired on-air/online version of the music festival that is one of the primary fundraisers for the Flint Riverkeeper conservation group.

Whatever you might call the Sunday-night festival broadcast on local radio station WPFQ and on various associated social media sites, by all means call the Knobby Knees broadcast a success.

Six regional musical acts — Jodi Mann and Co., Pinebox Dwellers, Page Brothers Band, Unbreakable Bloodline, Evan Barber and BoDean & the Poachers — offered landmark acoustic performances crafted specifically for the virtual broadcast, which was accessed by thousands via the on-air broadcast on The Queen Bee radio station located inside Pretoria Fields Brewery in downtown Albany or on social media sites of the radio station, the Riverkeeper and the performing acts.

“What an amazing team effort,” Riverkeeper Executive Director Gordon Rogers, who traveled to Albany to watch the performances live, said after the Poachers closed out the six hours of music. “We were looking at a $70,000 event before the virus hit, so obviously we’re not going to get the same financial return. But through sponsorships and donations, we’re looking at a $30,000 event in a format no one involved had ever done before.

“I think it’s a tribute to our staff, to (WPFQ Station Manager) Tara (Dyer Stoyle) and to these acts who wanted to be associated with our organization that made this such a success. They all volunteered to play for next to nothing, and it’s because they’re the kind of folks who support what our agency does. This format allows us to get some important income that will help us to keep our staff busy doing what is very important work, and it also keeps the (Knobby Knees) brand going. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Jodi Mann — whose “Company” included Blake Cook and Bo Henry on acoustic guitars — set the tone for Knobby Knees with a rousing set that included original material and impressive covers of John Prine’s “Angel of Montgomery” and Charlie Daniels’ “Long-Haired Country Boy,” which she altered to fit the gender change.

The Pinebox Dwellers, which for this show included only lead singer/guitarist Sean Clark and percussionist Connor Griffin — who played a cajon — gave a surprisingly rocking performance, the highlight of which was the almost out-of-control burner “Axle Grease and Gasoline.” The Page Brothers, one of the region’s hottest acts prior to the virus slowdown, played most of the songs off their forthcoming EP “Blood on the Bible Belt.” With only Travis Page’s guitar for accompaniment, Dakota Page wailed like a cross between Waylon Jennings and Otis Redding.

Unbreakable Bloodline proved to be the festival’s surprise act. Minus primary singer O’She Tyght, UBL managed to tone down the frenetic energy of their typical live show to offer nuanced performances of their mostly hip-hop/rock fusion catalog. MCs Vernon “Chief H” Cruz and Jay “O-Z” Osbourne traded rapid-fire lines, while usual bassist Ryan Myers — who played acoustic rhythm Sunday — offered excellent lyrical accompaniment.

Guitarist Jon Smith proved he could unplug with the best of them, providing Flamenco-like flourishes with his electric acoustic, while Paul Ward gave ample percussion backbeat.

Singer/songwriter Evan Barber had the unenviable task of following UBL, but he was up for the challenge. Barber, accompanied by stand-up bassist Phillip Rogers, sang several of the songs off his new album that he said is in the “mixing stage.” Standouts among them were “North Florida” and “Sundays.” The Poachers — Brandon and Todd Fox, Shane Brown, and Chris Overman (who were without scrub board man Michael Miller Sunday) — have a weekly show on the radio station. They closed out the fest with a rousing run-through of their best-loved songs, including “Frog Legs,” “Sing All Night, Sleep All Day” and “Slow Down and Live.”

“I absolutely loved this,” Pinebox Dweller Clark said. “I’ve never heard of anyone doing a virtual festival, but this turned out great. I got to see some really great musicians, and while I was concerned about how it would go playing without any audience feedback, it was actually the same kind of feel knowing there was a radio audience out there listening. I was pumped up; I could have gone on another hour or two.”

Phoebe Class of '20 residents graduate; new class introduced

ALBANY – The Phoebe Family Medicine Residency program celebrated the graduation of the Class of 2020 with a virtual ceremony over the weekend. Seven graduating residents and their families joined PFMR leaders and faculty for an online program.

“We regret the COVID-19 pandemic prevented us from enjoying our typical ceremony together, but we still had a great time ‘virtually’ honoring our graduates,” PFMR Program Director Dr. William Fricks said in a news release. “These excellent young physicians provided outstanding service to our community over the last three years and played important roles in Phoebe’s COVID-19 fight during the last few months of their residency. There’s no doubt what they saw and did during our COVID-19 response will stay with them for the remainder of their careers and shape the kind of physicians they will become.”

The seven graduates are Drs. Clay Hartley, Steve Hotz, Nik Karson, Nana Sarpong Mensah, Kilby Osborn, Jembber Robinson and Joe Thomas.

During the graduation ceremony, Karsan was honored as Resident of the Year. He will remain at Phoebe and join the health system’s team of hospitalists.

“This truly is an amazing class of physicians who have already accomplished a great deal,” Fricks said. “We’re happy to honor Dr. Karsan as a fine representative of this class, and we are thrilled he will remain part of the Phoebe Family.”

Other awards presented at the ceremony include:

♦ Intern of the Year – Dr. Ajay Jani;

♦ Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Resident Teacher Award – Dr. Clay Hartley;

♦ Residency Teacher of the Year – Dr. Gurinder Doad;

♦ Community Faculty Member of the Year – Dr. Ayodeji Olarewaju;

♦ In-Patient Faculty Member of the Year – Michael Sein;

♦ Advanced Practice Provider of the Year – Elois Edge.

Although the typical community welcome ceremony was cancelled due to COVID-19, Phoebe also welcomed the PFMR Class of 2023.

“I don’t know another health system in the country that welcomes new residents the way Phoebe typically does,” Phoebe Putney Health System President/CEO Scott Steiner said. “Our community and business leaders understand how important these residents are to our community, and they are always eager to join us for a large gathering where we present the residents with their white coats and a welcome wagon of gifts. Even without that ceremony, we are making sure we let our new residents know how excited we are to have them as part of the Phoebe Family, and we are congratulating them on this important milestone in their professional lives.”

The members of the PFMR Class of 2023 are:

♦ Dr. Krystal Archer – Medical College of Georgia;

♦ Dr. Vadley Faugue – Ross University School of Medicine;

♦ Dr. Sheldon Herbert – Ross University School of Medicine;

♦ Dr. Joshua Kinsey – West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine;

♦ Dr. Miriam Onyegbula – Ross University School of Medicine;

♦ Dr. Juan Serna-Gonzalez – Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine;

♦ Dr. Joseph Sonntag – Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine;

♦ Dr. Isaac Su – Indiana University School of Medicine.

The residents will spend the next three years honing their medical skills in southwest Georgia. They will complete various specialty rotations as they train under a team of community attending physicians. Phoebe’s goal is that as many of them as possible will end up staying in the region to practice after they graduate.

Dougherty commissioners approve animal control contract, budget

ALBANY — The Dougherty County Commission on Monday approved a $77,000 contract with the Albany Humane Society for housing and disposing of stray and nuisance animals.

Commissioners also finalized a 2020-2021 budget during a special called meeting.

The 10-year contract calls for the Humane Society’s Albany shelter to accept animals collected by the county’s animal control officers in unincorporated Dougherty County. The shelter also will accept animals involved in biting incidents and rabies cases. The contract also allows the Humane Society to charge a $50 fee per animal for intakes made after hours and on weekends.

“The 10-year contract that preceded this contract had a fixed rate of $54,000,” Albany attorney Joe Dent, who represents the Humane Society, said.

If the total number of animals exceeds 700 in a given year, the contract allows a per-animal cost of $55 for each additional animal.

“My question: Is there a budgetary cap that was set up” to cover animals in excess of 700, Commissioner Russell Gray said.

Dent said he could not immediately provide information on the average number of animals the county placed with the Humane Society over the 10 years of the current contract. County Administrator Michael McCoy said he will provide the information to commissioners.

The Humane Society does not collect the disposal fee in cases where an animal is adopted from the agency, Dent said.

Commissioners approved the contract with a 6-0 vote, with Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas abstaining because he works in the same law firm with Dent. Under the contract, which begins Wednesday, the Humane Society can seek an adjustment to increase the annual payment to reflect increases in the amount of rent the agency pays and inflation.

Commissioners also approved the county’s $70.9 million budget by a unanimous vote. The budget total represents a 0.6% increase to the general fund budget and a 1.5% overall increase, McCoy said.

“The increase is less than inflation and obviously much less than it has been over a normal budget year,” he said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county’s budget projections call for a 15 percent drop in sales tax receipts due to the pandemic.

“This will be a challenge going forward, and I am sure we will be able to adapt,” McCoy said.

The spending plan calls for using up to $5.8 million from the county’s reserve funds to make up for any shortfall. County staff will monitor the budget closely and plans to give a report in October on the status of revenues, McCoy added.

In other business, the commission:

♦ Re-appointed incumbent Albany-Dougherty Land Bank Board member Robert J. Middleton to a two-year term;

♦ Re-appointed Leonard Minter and Richard Ware to serve three-year terms on the board of ASPIRE Behavioral Health & Disability Services. Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler also was appointed to a three-year term for the board position required to be filled by an elected official;

♦ Appointed Department of Family & Children Services Board incumbents Bill Edge and Catherine Hill two five-year terms;

♦ Approved acceptance of a $100,000 grant for a health initiative partnership with Flint River Fresh and the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service.